Sanne Cant returned to her mid-season form to take the Belgian Championships. © Start-Box/Wouter Toelen

Sanne Cant returned to her mid-season form to take the Belgian Championships. © Start-Box/Wouter Toelen

by Michael van den Ham

The Belgian National championships took place this Sunday in Erpe-Mere. Erpe-Mere hosts Steenbergcross every September, on a nearly identical course. Heavy rainfall yesterday turned the fast track we watched in September to heavy one with long running sections, a number of flyovers, and thick, slippery mud.

On a course that had her colleagues running descents, crashing in the deep, slippery mud, and pitting every half lap, Sanne Cant confidently and smoothly rode to her sixth Belgian title on a sopping wet and slippery course in Erpe-Mere. Just as many predicted, such as Christine Vardaros in her pre-race predictions, Sanne Cant (Enertherm — BKCP) and the eventually runner-up, Ellen Van Loy (Telenet — Fidea) separated themselves from the rest of the riders early in the first lap and went on to separate themselves from the rest of the field by a number of minutes. Further back, Githa Michiels (Versluys PRO) earned with final step of the podium.

For Cant, the win wasn’t so much as a surprise as it was a relief. After winning the previous five national titles, the 24 year old Belgian would be disappointed with anything but victory. “I’m glad I won my sixth tri-color. Such National Championships always brings a bit  stress along with them because I can only lose. As a result, I’m very glad that I won here.”

Second place, Ellen Van Loy was quick to praise Cant’s win. “I would be disappointed with third place” she explained, “with a second place, I’ll live . Sanne’s been strong all season and is a deserved winner. She made the difference especially on the technical parts.”

Cant, the current World-Cup leader, and Van Loy, lead the race from the first corner. The first lap went to Van Loy as she used a fast start to gain a handful of seconds on Cant by the time they returned to the Start/Finish one round later. For a moment, Cant’s Belgian dominance looked to be in doubt as Van Loy pushed a big gear, rode sections Cant was running, and seemed much faster in the deep mud.

The early efforts seemed to cost Van Loy, however, and her advantage was short lived. Mid-way through the second lap, Cant slowly but surely began to claw back time on the lead. First the gap was 5 seconds, then 3, until finally Cant rode past Van Loy half way through the race and kept on going. As Van Loy visibly began to tire, Cant grew her lead through superior technical riding. At the start of the bell lap, she has 5 seconds. By half-way into the lap, she had extended that lead to 15 seconds and, by the time she raised her arms victory, had a comfortable 20 second advantage and plenty of time savour the victory, and point sky-ward as she crossed the line.

The final spot of the podium was earned by a surprising Githa Michiels. Michiels spent much of the race in 4th place, before passing a mechanical stricken Loes Sels on the final lap to take the last step on the podium. Sels crossed the line for 4th a minute later. Further down the field, Cindy Bauwens (Morgan Blue) took home fifth place, while Jolien Verschueren (Telenet — Fidea) rode in for sixth.

2015 Belgian National Cyclo-cross Championships, Women's Elite Race

1Sanne CANT2543:18:00
2Ellen VAN LOY3543:36:00
3Githa MICHIELS3245:18:00
4Loes SELS3046:37:00
5Cindy BAUWENS4148:43:00
6Katrien THIJS3048:46:00
7Laura VERDONSCHOT1948:54:00
8Jolien VERSCHUEREN2548:59:00
9Shana MAES2049:54:00
10Karen VERHESTRAETEN2450:04:00
11Femke VAN DEN DRIESSCHE1950:40:00
12Kim VAN DE STEENE2952:33:00
13Marlies BECKERS2354:13:00
14Gertie WILLEMS3854:28:00
15Meg DE BRUYNE1955:34:00
16Nele VAN MALDEGHEM3256:27:00
17Tine VERDEYEN2657:32:00
18Brenda KACZMARCZYK5259:10:00
19Aur‚lie VERMEIR2359:47:00
20Anja GELDHOF4259:54:00
21Jessika TIMMERMANS361:00:28
22Mieke DE ROO431:00:34
23Marijke DE PAUW251:01:14
24Anja NOBUS411:01:35
25Jo BLANCHAERT451:02:50
27Katleen FRAEYE51
28Sandie VERRIEST33
29Delphine COUCKUYT22
30Melisa PEERS20
31Cindy DIERICX41
32Sandra SINTOBIN43